There are many athletes out there who do not focus on nutrition along with their training. This is more often than not because they do not understand the benefits of it. By understanding the advantages that proper nutrition can give you, you will see that it will maximize your training and the skills you perform.
Maximize Strength Gains
In short, by eating more calories than you burn, you will increase the size of your muscle fibers, which results in increased strength. This increase in calories is called a caloric surplus. This will, also, result in increased weight due to the increased size of the muscles. Though it is a goal of calisthenics athletes to be as light as possible, if you train for strength instead of size, your strength gains will progress faster than the size that comes along with it. In addition, by only eating a small amount more calories than you burn (~200 calories more every 2-3 weeks) you will not see as much weight gain. This will cause you to purely maximize the amount of strength that you will gain without allowing weight to negatively affect you.
Minimize Excess Body Fat
Since being as light as possible is a huge factor when training with your own body weight, using nutrition to minimize your body fat is a necessity if you want to reach your true potential. For me personally and many other calisthenics athletes, when it comes to competition time, we try to cut down excess weight in order to be able to hold skills longer and fly higher in dynamics. Opposite to how to gain more strength, in order to burn off excess fat, you have to eat fewer calories than you are burning. This is called a calorie deficit and it will ensure that your body is using your fat storage as energy, which will allow you to decrease your body fat. You do not want to decrease your calories by too much (no more than 200 calories every few weeks), because it can lead to loss of muscle as well. By minimizing body fat, you will make yourself lighter, which will allow you to perform skills with less effort.
Proper Energy for Training Sessions
A big part of training as a serious calisthenics athlete is pushing yourself through long sessions, sometimes up to 2-4 hours or more. Similarly, if you are competing in a tournament you will have to have the energy for long periods of time. In order to keep yourself at the highest level of energy possible, you should focus on what you are eating before and during the sessions or competitions.
Our bodies’ main energy source is carbohydrates. As an athlete, your diet should consist of plenty of carbohydrates. You should have a large meal full of carbohydrates about 2-3 hours before training or competition. This meal can include proteins and fats but should be mainly carbohydrates. Then you should have a smaller meal of main carbohydrates about 1 hour before training. Some examples of foods to have 1 hour prior to training could be a banana or other serving of fruit, bread, oatmeal, or yogurt. Generally, you should avoid excess fat in your meals, especially prior to training because it takes your body longer to digest fat, which will cause you to feel heavy from it during your training. If you want to eat more fat in your meal, have it in your meal a few hours before training, in order to give your body time to digest it.
Keep in mind that you can’t efficiently lose fat and gain strength at the same time, so you should have a period of time where you focus on strength and periods where you focus on fat loss. The amount of time you spend in each period will depend on your level of fitness/physical condition and individual goals. For competitive athletes, you should use a calorie surplus in order to maximize your strength when you do not have a competition coming up. Then, when the competition is soon, use the month or two before to lose excess body fat. You can use this calorie calculator to estimate your calorie surplus and deficit, but you will have to adjust your calories over time depending on your results.
by Cameron Kocontes